Community groups call for stop to Sunnyside Yard
by Benjamin Fang
Nov 27, 2019 | 1458 views | 0 0 comments | 91 91 recommendations | email to a friend | print
More than 40 community organizations have signed onto a statement calling on the city’s Economic Development Coalition (EDC) to “immediately halt” their development plans for Sunnyside Yard.

The groups called for not just a moratorium on “all major new developments and rezonings,” but also for the city to reallocate billions of dollars to restoring public housing, repairing crumbling infrastructure and saving small businesses.

On Monday afternoon, several of those organizations, including Woodside On the Move and the Justice for All Coalition, rallied in front of Sunnyside Yard with dozens of supporters.

“Anyone who believes that we should build on top of this historic rail yard before we fix the myriad problems that we see in our public housing institutions has zero imagination,” said Nick Velkov, a steering committee member for the Justice for All Coalition, “and has no idea what compassion and empathy actually is.”

The Astoria small business owner said an “Emerald City for the rich” will be built on top of the deck, while the “99 percent” in the community will continue to have their needs unmet.

He called the city’s plan a “short-term solution with huge long-term costs.”

Dannelly Rodriguez, a second-year student at CUNY Law School and a member of the Justice for All Coalition, blasted EDC for “boasting” about the development of Astoria and Long Island City.

The lifelong Astoria resident said he has only seen two things go up for those two neighborhoods: the cost of rent and luxury buildings.

“Are they developing for us? Absolutely not, they’re developing for the rich,” he said. “That’s been clear time and time again.”

Rodriguez compared what will be built on top of Sunnyside Yard as akin to Hudson Yards.

“What the city invests in tells you what they care about,” he said.

The statement the groups have circulated also calls on the EDC to stop a “corrupt and undemocratic decision-making process,” and to halt “privatization methods” to evict public housing residents.

Among their demands are reforming the land use process to create a “community-driven” system, to abolish the EDC, and eliminate the involvement of real estate in city planning.

In a statement, an EDC spokesperson said that Sunnyside Yard presents an opportunity to build a “stronger New York” and meet the needs for more open space, transit, housing, jobs and green infrastructure in western Queens.

EDC is still in the master planning process, and aims to release the plan in winter 2020. To date, the agency has hosted three public meetings, steering committee meetings, and about 100 community stakeholder in-person interviews.

The agency is also hosting a digital town hall webinar on December 4 to reach other community stakeholders.

“We recognize that in any long-term planning process there will be questions and concerns,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “We look forward to continuing to engage the community to discuss with them the goals and impact.”
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